Max: The Curse of Brotherhood Xbox One Review

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In Max: Curse of the Brotherhood. your end goal is to find your lost brother. But this is largely unimportant, as Curse of the Brotherhood is built solely around gameplay, not story. You might as well be told to go rescue the princess from yet another castle, as like that game, this is one where gameplay shines – albeit in a different way.  I highlight this, as in recent years many people seem to harken for games of similar appearance  to offer more than just the usual  gameplay tropes. Curse of the Brotherhood is not trying to be Braid, Limbo or Brothers. nor any mix of the three. It won’t shock you with a cleverly timed twist or moment. It is just a simple, yet beautiful looking title, relying solely on it’s gameplay to get by. Thankfully, it manages to ‘get by’ very well. Whilst not a wholly unique game, it is a very solid one.

From screenshots alone Curse of the Brotherhood may look very much like a simple platformer. However it is more a puzzler wrapped up in a sidescrolling adventure. This is a game that very much reminded me of Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee – minus the Mudokon-based oppressively bleak storyline and setting. Even though the game boasts the same typical level and chapter layout you’d see from a 2D platformer, each of these levels is, in turn, broken into separate areas, with each having  one off puzzles of their own challenging you. The platforming and puzzle sections may be combined in terms of gameplay, but are totally separate from each other in terms of control, with each needing independent inputs.

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Puzzles in the game are built around use of Max’s Magic Marker, that can be used to interact with the environment to alter certain items. This does not mean you can go Red Faction-style Geo-Mod crazy as you dig holes in Max’s world, you are instead limited as to where you can interact. Initial work with your marker begins by letting you interact with stone pillars. By raising and lowering them you can make platforms, create blockades or fashion spurious bridges to help you navigate the world. As the locales of the game slowly change in appearance, your marker’s power can create shoots of water for Max to surf upon, leading to some of the game’s more action-filled, grandiose moments. Later in the game, Marker use is given a bit more freedom, with players asked to reach out, and grab vines. These are the most pliable of your puzzling buddies, as you can shape them in more obtuse ways than other items, to make them easier to climb upon.

As already mentioned, the game is more a puzzler that a platformer, and this fact is most evident during the moments the game tasks you with performing platforming tasks in quick succession. Here you do not play a character like Mario nor Super Meat Boy, who will follow your controller inputs precisely. The game’s controls will let you down here if you ask too much from them. But this only really occurs when the game forces you to rush – and thankfully it seems the developer was smart enough to limit these panicked moments to a small handful. In fact, the game has a built in bullet-time mode that automatically triggers when you are required to perform platforming tasks and fast marker inputs together, meaning the game is almost always a test of your brain cells instead of your reflexes.

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Perhaps the only facet of Curse of the Brotherhood that I’m not too fond of is the fact it’s on Xbox One. That’s not a dig at the newly debuting console – as I am happy to have something compelling to play on it so soon after launch. But instead of limiting the Magic Marker to an input on a controller, it could have been better implemented on a console or handheld with touch controls – Vita, Wii U, and 3DS all spring to mind. This same fact proved true during the initial release of Rayman Legends in 2013, where the levels with touch control on Wii U and Vita were limited to a button press on other consoles. In that instance, the altered versions of those levels that appeared on console without touch input felt somewhat lacking, but still serviceable. The same is proven true with this release.

However, even in saying that, Curse of the Brotherhood is solid. The hope of what could be does not diminish the fact that what is available right now is entertaining in its own right. As I said at the outset, perhaps even overusing the word, this is a game that relies almost solely on its gameplay to impress, and bar for a small handful of missteps it rarely is a letdown in that regard. It will not be the most compelling thing you play all year, but it does what it set out to do very well. It is a clever game, with a simple idea at it’s core, that consistently brings enough clever ideas to the table as it goes to remain captivating throughout.

8/10

by

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Version tested: Xbox One

Also available on: Xbox 360

Developer: Press Play

Publisher: Microsoft

Genre: Puzzle Platformer